Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful (and free, for most of us) tool that enables you to get a wealth of data about your websites and your clients’ websites. And while Google Analytics works really well with no configuration, there are several simple tweaks that will make its data more powerful, more useful, and more accurate.
Note: Some of these tweaks require the use of filters. Filters physically remove certain data from your Google Analytics reports. Once a filter is applied, the data that was filtered is gone forever; it can’t be recovered. Filters don’t work retroactively, either. They only start working the day they are created. If you’re unfamiliar, you can read up on filters in Google Analytics here.
4 Google Analytics tweaks:
- Filter out your company’s internal traffic on production sites
- Set all URLs to lowercase
- Enable tracking of website search results
- Make sure you’re using Universal Analytics
#1: Filter out your company’s internal traffic on production sites
Most companies get at least a small portion of traffic from their own employees. For production (live) websites, your employees’ data should not be counted. This ensures accurate and honest reporting. (The exception here, of course, is an employee intranet or site geared toward employees.)
To filter out employee traffic, you need to know your company’s public-facing IP address(es). If you don’t know them, your IT department should be able to point you in the right direction.
In Google Analytics, go to Admin (it’s in the main bar along the top). On the left side, make sure the correct account is selected from the ACCOUNT drop-down menu. Then go to All Filters. Click the + New Filter button.
Give the filter a name, use Predefined filter as the filter type, make sure Exclude is selected, and then choose traffic from the IP addresses.
Type an IP address in the IP address box. Finally, under Apply Filter to Views, select all of the appropriate views, and click the Add > button. Click Save at the bottom, and you’re done! Repeat this procedure if you need to add multiple IP addresses.
For more information on filters, see our article "Do Google Analytics Filters Apply Retroactively?"
#2: Set all URLs to lowercase
By default, Google Analytics is case-sensitive. This means that pages with the same names but different cases will appear in reports as separate entries. Consider these three entries:
By default, Google Analytics would track the aforementioned URLs as three separate pages, making it more challenging to get an accurate count of your metrics. To get a more consolidated view of page activity, it’s best to consolidate all URLs into lowercase. Using this tweak, all of the information would be reported under “/blog” from the example above.
Here’s how to force Google Analytics to convert all URLs to lowercase:
Again, go to Admin in the top menu bar, choose the appropriate account, go to All Filters, and click the + New Filter button.
Give the filter a name, and this time choose Custom filter as the filter type. Choose Lowercase, and then choose Request URI from the Filter Field dropdown menu.
Apply the filter to the appropriate view(s) using the Apply Filter to Views widget, and click Save.
#3: Enable tracking of website search results
With a simple tweak, Google analytics can provide detailed metrics about your website’s search functions: how many are searching, what search terms are being used, and how individual search terms are performing. Note: this is not to be confused with organic search data, like search data from Google and Bing. We are talking about the search function built into your website.
Return to the Admin area via the main navigation bar. Select the account, and then the property, and then the view. Click on View Settings.
Scroll down to where it says Site Search Settings, and toggle the switch to On. Next, enter the search parameter that appears in your site’s URL after someone searches. If you don’t know what this is, go to your site and perform a search, and then observe the URL. There will likely be a parameter after a question mark in the URL. Here is a sample from our website.
In this case, the parameter used to specify a search is the letter q, so enter this in the Query parameter box. You can also check Strip query parameters out of URL. In our case, this would remove the “?q=XXXX” from other entries in Google Analytics. When you’re all done, click Save at the bottom.
The search data will start to appear within the Behavior > Site Search reports. It may take a day or so before data starts appearing in the search reports.
#4: Make sure you’re using Universal Analytics
Universal Analytics is Google’s latest iteration of its tracking code and methodology. It’s always best to use their latest tracking code, so you should upgrade to Universal Analytics as soon as possible.
Google has already put together an excellent guide for upgrading, so please refer to the Google Analytics Upgrade Center for more details.
I use these tweaks in almost all of our Google Analytics accounts, and they’ve made my life easier by providing more data and streamlining existing data.
Read next: Do Google Analytics Filters Apply Retroactively?